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New Jersey Nets' Vince Carter

Nets Offer Free Tickets to Unemployed

November 13, 2008 11:21 AM
by Denis Cummings
The New Jersey Nets are offering free tickets to unemployed fans who submit their resumes, a sign of the struggling economy’s effect on sports.

Nets Reach Out to Unemployed

The Nets are accepting resumes from unemployed fans and sending them to their corporate sponsors, including UPS, TD Bank and Coca-Cola. The team will invite selected fans to a Nov. 22 job fair at its home arena and offer 300 seats to each of five selected games on a first-come, first-serve basis to all applicants.

“Unemployment is on the rise in the metropolitan area, so we want to offer our fans that are between jobs some help in finding a job, as well as a chance to relieve some stress by coming to a Nets game,” said Nets CEO Brett Yormark in the team’s press release. “We are committed to investing in our fans now, and hopefully they will invest in us when times are better.”

The Nets have instituted many ticket promotions, including an option to delay 2008-09 season ticket payments until 2009. They have had trouble drawing fans in past years—due in large part to a planned move to Brooklyn—but this year’s economic recession has exacerbated the problem for them and other teams.

“The offer is an extreme example of how sports franchises are competing for dwindling entertainment dollars in the country’s most-crowded marketplace,” writes David Waldstein of the Newark Star-Ledger, who mentions that the New Jersey Devils have also offered new ticket and concession deals this year. “Filling their arenas early in the season always has been a challenge for both teams, and they say the loss of more than 20,000 private- and public-sector jobs in New Jersey this year has made the task more challenging.”

Background: The effect of the recession on sports

The recession has made it more difficult to sell tickets, as fans now have less disposable income to spend on tickets. The NBA and MLB reported modest declines in ticket sales, and economists believe that there may be a significant slump in sales next year.

In anticipation of lowered demand, some baseball teams are lowering or freezing ticket prices for next season, including the Boston Red Sox, who announced a ticket price freeze Wednesday. “The announcement, which ends 14 years of steady increases, was a seismic acknowledgement that the years-long spending spree on professional sports tickets might be slowing, even for a team that has developed a famously loyal fan base,” writes The Boston Globe.
“The new model that has emerged over the last two decades is not going to hold up,” Smith College sport economist Andrew Zimbalist told Time. “It’s not conceivable that sports will be impervious to a downturn.”

Economists are debating how the recession will affect the sales of high-priced luxury boxes, front row seats and personal seat licenses. So far, there seems to be little negative effect, as the New York Jets had no problem selling PSLs during an online auction last month and the New York Mets have sold nearly all of the luxury boxes in their new stadium. Economist Robert Baade told ESPN that it may take 5–10 years for PSLs to be affected by the economy, as buyers find the resale market difficult.

Some teams have had trouble maintaining sponsorship revenue; the problem is especially significant in soccer and auto racing, where uniforms and cars carry prominent sponsor logos. English soccer club West Ham lost sponsor XL after it filed for bankruptcy, and Chip Ganassi shut down his NASCAR team after losing sponsors.

However, many corporate sponsors had already signed long-term deals with teams and are honoring those contracts. This, says MSNBC’s David Sweet, is one of the reasons that major professional sports are in a perfect position to survive the recession. He cites a report by specialty investment bank Moag & Co.

“Businesses in most industries can experience dramatic declines in value during bear markets and periods of market instability,” said the report. “During these same periods of uncertainty, however, the sports industry has experienced either no decline or less of a decline than the broader markets.”

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